The Presidio Trust Board meeting on February 7 contained no surprises. Once again, those who value the Presidio, especially its Main Post, as the most significant National Historic Landmark District on the West Coast came to speak against the Trust's construction "steamroller". The Trust continues to advocate a fourteen building hotel and a "modern wing" (really a whole new building) next to the historic theater. And it refuses to consider placing a Visitors Center and/or Museum at that location. And once again, there was no immediate response from the Trust. ( The manager of the Presidio Golf Club was in favor of a hotel, but did not state any reason why the hotel should be placed in the center of Main Post where it most damages the historic district, as compared with any other Presidio location where it would not. )
A decision in the form of a “record of decision” on the environmental impact statement could come in a "week or so". We have no reason to believe that the Trust will change its ill advised course after its continuous three year campaign advocating both the hotel and until recently, the monstrous contemporary art museum. The Trust hotel is not supported by any of the major public groups in the city or the nation. After the Fisher family's withdrawal of the Museum, the Trust has continued spending its “own” - and really your- federal dollars promoting a fourteen building hotel in the Main Post. It is a project which in the eyes of everyone but the single-minded Trust, promises to be a major financial loser and waste of federal money, as well as diminishing the historic experience in the Main Post.
On a slightly more positive note, planning by the Trust, the Park Service and the Golden Gate Park Conservancy to establish a real NPS Visitors Center on Main Post is getting underway. After ten years of having none, it bewilders me why they have not even decided where this new visitors center will be, and why they refuse to even consider the most logical location, which happens to be site chosen for the hotel?
Construction and rehabilitation of the Officers Club, which contains portions of an early Spanish Presidio building, has begun. Part of that building is supposed to house a 13,000 square foot “Heritage Center” to be established by the Trust. To our knowledge, no expert or public planning for the use of such a center has begun, even though the building is now undergoing remodeling for that purpose. The Trust recently has agreed that the content of the Heritage Center should be designed in cooperation with the Park Service. This is a point that the Presidio Historical Association has urged. Progress!
It is bewildering that there is no coordinated plan for interpretation of Main Post. If a central plan is not completed promptly to express a vision for how a park visitor is to enjoy and understand the historic resources of the Presidio and their implications for the nation, then the time and money now being spent on specific projects such as the Heritage Center and the visitors center will result only in a hodgepodge of unrelated visitor experiences. We may miss a one-time opportunity to achieve a great historical park that reveals its obscured history to the public by a coherent set of exhibits and educational programs that a coordinated by a central vision for visitors' experiences of history.
Stay tuned for an analysis of any “Record of Decision” on the Main Post Plans.
One more thing: PLEASE RESPOND WITH A COMMENT TO THIS BLOG TO ADVISE US WHETHER A FACEBOOK FORMAT WOULD BE A BETTER MEANS OF COMMUNICATING WITH YOU AND TO GET YOUR IDEAS EXPRESSED.
Thanks for your dedication to making the Presidio the unique historic park that it could be. Presidiopal